Harvard Market marks 100-year anniversary in Stadium Village

Jared Roddy

As buildings and store fronts on Washington Avenue Southeast have evolved with the changing fashions of the century, many businesses have come and gone.

The exception through it all has been the Harvard Market, which is now celebrating its 100th year in the same location.

Four people have owned Harvard Market since it made its first sale in 1904, owner Brad Mateer said. He bought the market in 1996 and opened the Harvard Market East one year later.

The market is one of few Stadium Village businesses that have lasted throughout the decades, outliving several bars, restaurants and small stores.

Stub & Herbs dates back to 1939, Big 10 has been around since the 1950s and the Harvard Barbers has cut hair for approximately 50 years.

But for those businesses that still exist, many more do not.

Where one might now buy a Noodles & Company bowl of soup, kitschy knick-knacks and greeting cards could have been purchased at Cardvark.

Shakey’s Pizza and Taste of Manhattan have also closed their doors in recent years.

Many of these independent stores fail because of corporate competition, said Big 10 co-owner Todd Dupont, and these operations need what Stub & Herbs and the market have: tradition.

“I think a lot of the independents that have made it have a very long tradition on campus,” Dupont said. “All strive to change with times, to keep things as fresh as it needs to be, while maintaining what made them effective in the first place.”

Mateer said the Harvard Market survives today by selling mostly candy, pop, tobacco and other snacks. He has increased the selection of these items to meet his customers’ needs.

Some Stadium Village store managers said they feel the area businesses could be threatened by the Academic Health Center’s proposed expansion. Variations of its plan include razing the 600 and 700 blocks of Washington Avenue Southeast, which includes the market.

“For years, we’ve known they want to grow, and that’s great,” Mateer said. “But we’re afraid they want to grow into us.”

Many students who frequent the store said they think there’s one clear reason why the Harvard Market has lasted so long.

“Location,” said Wes Amann, a 2003 University graduate. “It’s right next to the dorms and there’s no other place to go. You walk past it every day.”

Amann said that when he lived on campus he visited the store almost daily.

“The prices suck,” he said. “But if you need something, they usually got it.”

The Harvard Market has long carried the nickname “the Harvard Mark-up.” Dupont said that even in his college years in the 1980s, it had a reputation for higher prices.

“It’s a small store that can’t get the same prices that Wal-Mart can, so they can’t sell at the same prices as Wal-Mart can,” Dupont said.

Psychology sophomore Rachel LaNasa said she was surprised the prices weren’t higher when she first discovered the store.

“I think (the prices) are pretty decent,” LaNasa said. “It’s not like they’re a Cub (Foods). They’re not big enough for really low prices.”

The demand for a neighborhood grocery within walking distance is another reason the market has lasted, Dupont said.

First-year student Carolyn Warpinski said she has been to the store nearly every other day since her first day on campus.

“There’s always a demand for what they sell,” she said.